In a previous post and podcast episode, we discussed executive protection recruitment and more with Steve Albritton, a respected security industry consultant based in Florida, USA. In this continuation of our discussion, Steve shares how to build a security team from scratch, how to factor medical issues into a risk mitigation task and why staff sometimes need to be at more risk than the principal client. He also breaks down what really goes on behind the scenes of a travel task, what the options are for companies that cannot afford a full security team or to have advances done for them and all the other realities of executive protection.
THE REALITY OF RISK MITIGATION FOR CORPORATE ENTITIES
As more and more businesses look to build security teams and mitigate risk, Steve says the most secure solutions are almost always out of reach for most clients so a compromise is inevitable. This is where the value of the risk consultant comes in as they are best placed to know which compromises will leave the client least exposed to risk.
“I think the biggest thing on building teams and talking to a new client is just, to be honest with them and I would use one word – compromise.
With most companies, I think if you’re upfront with them and let them know that in the security world there is no 100%. Essentially the closer you want to get to 100% of security, meaning anywhere, anytime, all the time, 24/7, means a huge amount of expense. Usually, that expense exceeds what they’re willing to pay for, so when you go in with a new client and actually existing clients, it’s a constant balance of compromise.
It’s getting them to understand that that compromise means, for this much money this is what you’re going to get, and using their profile to build the best mitigation team.”
And even in cases where cost isn’t an issue, sometimes the need for the security detail to be highly visible ‘for show’ can also compromise the risk.
One thing Albritton addresses early on when doing a risk assessment for a client is medical preparedness. Even where there isn’t likely to be an imminent risk of injury, clients often have a medical condition that may put them at risk while travelling. A typical example is an executive who might have a known heart condition or diabetes.
The realities of executive protection show us that teams are more commonly including medics in their detail, either as a dedicated role or performing other security tasks as part of the project.
“Years ago, guys knew first aid and CPR, now it’s pretty much the norm for EMT’s [Emergency Medical Technicians] and paramedics to be involved in the security piece.”
THE TOUGH CHOICES OF RISK MANAGEMENT
Albritton points out that risk consultants and team leaders with boots on the ground often have to take compromise out into the field.
“That even goes down to things like, on the security side, as a manager or even a security operative, and you’re in another country with your client, you might be the one dictating which helicopter to contract, and telling him, ‘Hey look, we advise you to fly in this helicopter. That one has 10,000 hours on it. Put the staff in that second one.’”
Where possible though, it’s the security team that makes the compromises necessary to reduce the risk to the client(s) including walking shoreside when you’re in crocodile country.
TRAVEL PLANNING FOR THE REST OF US
While an ideal security team will have personnel dedicated to specific roles, that’s not always possible and a traveller might find themselves travelling with a single close protection agent, or in the worst-case scenario, they might be doing DIY executive protection and travelling alone.
“Some of these larger companies are designed to where they have intel analysts, point of interest personnel, they have multiple big teams of executive protection.
Every single one of those roles covers a specific area in the security world, but when you’re talking about the general person travelling, or let’s say one client, and I’ve travelled with clients like this before, one client, one close protection guy, and you’re it… It’s definitely a very difficult job because he’s got to wear multiple hats. He has to be, on Monday night before they’re travelling on Tuesday, he’s the one on the computer trying to find out, ‘Hey are there any issues for where we’re going?’
For example, are there any airport closures in certain locations? He’s essentially wearing about five different hats. You would do that, travelling individually, if you have to wear multiple hats. You don’t have all these specific roles, or you’ve got close protection, an EMT, a security analyst, a threat analysis person doing this, a travel planner booking your flights and making sure you have your hotel rooms. Those are just five different little areas, but when you’re travelling by yourself you have to do it all.”
In these cases, preparedness is essential. Just as a full security detail does as much advance work as possible, sole travellers or those travelling with a single operator need to do the same.
An ideal compromise is to have a security or risk management consultant do a generic advance for you but, if that’s not possible, travellers should at least make themselves familiar with the Panoptic Solutions Business Travel Safety and Security Checklist available at the bottom of this post.
BEHIND THE SCENES AND STARTING OUT
For new entrants into the industry, while it is easier to get started than it used to be, Albritton says they’re usually surprised at what the realities of executive protection roles really entail. He gives the example of cleaning shirts in Africa in the middle of the night. While it’s not technically a security task, having someone on the security team take care of it can often be the lowest risk option, even if other support staff are on hand.
“I would say in my experience, the clients don’t want to know. They want the end product. They don’t want to know how the clothes are washed, they just want clean laundry.”
He explains that maturity and humility are key attributes for any new entrant and makes it clear to those he is mentoring that the quickest way to move up to high level executive protection is to be willing to do whatever needs to be done.
“When recruiting new people, in the end, I look for maturity and humility. If you can find someone that is really mature and they’re very humble, then to me the rest I can get them through the system after that. I don’t mean that you hire people that don’t have the experience, I’m just saying, that then they’re on a fast track, because if they’re exuding humility then you can point to them and say, ‘Go do this, and if you do this, you’re going to move along.’”
Ahead of maturity and humility though, Albritton says problem-solving is essential in the field.
“That’s the number one trait, if they can problem-solve without driving you absolutely nuts, or calling you in the middle of the night with simple things that the average close protection guy should be able to solve, then that’s the key, problem-solving. Getting from point A to point G on their own and being able to solve it.”
For clients looking for risk assessments or hoping to build a team of operatives, or aspiring operatives, or those looking to explore other realities of executive protection, Steve can be reached via OPStructure.com or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And for those at the DIY end of the protection scale, we invite you again to download the checklist/infographic in printable pdf by entering your details below.